Food Photography & Styling Workshop

I am not a particularly spontaneous person (and that’s an understatement), but last week an opportunity has presented itself and I had to make a quick decision. Fingers crossed I am not speaking too soon, but that decision might just turn out to be the deal breaker in taking My Chest of Wonders a step further.

I’ve experienced my first blogging blues and it has been a pity party over here lately. It was high time I clicked out of that tab, so this bit of good in the form of a workshop could not have come at a better time.

I always felt the lack of a local friend or acquaintance who shares my interest and taste, and since the idea of a tabletop styling and prop rental business first started forming in my head I was eagerly looking for someone I could have good chats with on the topic. Well, that person exists and she’s a total sweetheart too!

Zita Csigo is one of my country’s most established and well-known food stylists & photographers, also teaching tricks of the trade at her popular workshops. I was quick to respond to a sudden vacancy, took the day off from work and oh was it worth it!

Being my biggest critic, I wasn’t satisfied with my photos. When I got my DSLR I enrolled on a photography course to learn the basics, but limited knowledge and no constructive feedback put me in a place where taking photos for my posts became a bit of a nuisance. I knew my shots could (should) be better, just didn’t know how.

I brought two sets of images we made from the workshop to show you a bit of what I’ve learnt. All photos were taken without studio lights. The shots on the left were taken after I’ve selected and arranged the objects in a way I thought was fine. The improvements you see on the right were made by adjusting the light and following the basic rules of composition only. No editing was done on the images.

food photography workshop

food photography workshop

Besides the food photography know-how, we had a lengthy conversation on blogging and business, and I absolutely loved getting lost in Zita’s astonishing prop collection. Our aesthetic turns out to be quite similar (good sign for me!) so working together was really effortless. She also reassured me that my business idea is ripe for the picking which I consider the most valuable feedback I could get. I left inspired and with newfound motivation, so thank you again!

*Disclaimer: I have visited and paid for this service. What I write about business establishments on My Chest of Wonders represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship, commissions or gifts.*

Love,

Fruzsi

Further Adventures in Dairyland – Cheesemaking at Home

fresh cheeses

I am in a place in life right now when I feel the need to learn new things, so I’m on the lookout for culinary classes. Earlier I wrote a piece about how I started making my own yogurt and butter, and now my adventures in the land of dairy continue with cheese.

Man has been making cheese from raw ingredients with non-industrial methods for 7,500+ years. That is, waaay before refrigerators, thermometers and sterile lab equipment, so it must not be too complicated.

Or so I thought. Truth is, making cheese is both art and science. After the workshop I’ve attended hosted by chef Balázs Sarudi, this became very clear to me. Here’s a short summary of what I’ve learnt while we made our own mozzarella- and parenica style cheese plus some delicious ricotta to take home with us.

Real cheesemaking requires extensive knowledge (think MSc levels of biochemistry and microbiology) and years, if not decades of experience relying on your senses.

There are many types of cheese and just as many methods for making it. But while the recipes for all types of cheese vary (some undergo more steps and require more time to make than others), the basic process of turning milk into cheese stays the same: curdling and then separating the solids from the whey.

To make even the simplest forms of cheese – fresh cheese – at home, the most important of all is to buy quality raw whole milk, preferably from pastured cows. Evident as it may sound, getting your hands on it could be trickier than you might think. Once you’ve managed that though, you can be sure it will yield the best flavor.

Now, to turn that lovely dairy to cheese, you need to heat it first. When the milk is warm, a starter culture containing lactic bacteria is added to change lactose (milk sugar) into lactic acid. This process changes the acidity level of the milk and begins turning milk from liquid into solid.

The next step is called coagulation, when we further encourage the milk to solidify. There are two ways to do this: using acid (like lemon juice or white vinegar) will yield small, crumbly curdles. Using enzymes such as rennet will result in a gel-like consistency, allowing curds to be stretched and molded, unlike curds formed with acid. Rennet, found in the stomach linings of cattle and sheep, is the oldest method.

After some resting, it’s time to cut curds to expel and separate whey. Generally, the smaller the curds are cut, the harder the resulting cheese will be. Whey is then drained, but it would be a shame to discard as it is full of protein and nutrients. It can be used for many things from feeding to animals, using it fresh in place of water or milk in recipes like bread and pastries, making other dairy products such as ricotta, or processed foods e.g. whey protein.

Salting the curd adds flavor and acts as a preservative as well so the cheese does not spoil. After this, the cheese is put into a mold and is pressed or turned regularly to expel remaining liquids.

And voilà! What you have now is fresh cheese, cheese in its youngest, purest form. It has a simple yet satisfying flavor, mild, maybe a little salty or tangy. With time, it would ripen and could be called aged cheese.

And that’s about it. I did not share an exact recipe as you could find everything online, but do please let me know if you’d still like me to, I am at your disposal. 🙂

At-home cheesemaking kits are available at specialty shops and also from online retailers (to my Hungarian readers: visit Panni sajtműhelye for recipes and webshop). Can’t wait for mine to arrive, hopefully my efforts will be worth sharing.

One more thing though, if you are even slightly interested in trying your hands at homemade cheese, I do encourage you to find a dairy workshop near you and attend. YouTube might have it all, but going out to see, touch, smell and taste for yourself makes all the difference.

Love,

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I’ve visited, and/or used services offered by business establishments mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such entities represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship, commissions or gifts.*

‘Fresh cheeses on white wood’ stock image via Shutterstock